Everybody Hurts

So on this sad inaugural day, things have begun to change quickly in our country. Our new president has, through his inaugural address and White House website, deepened his reliance on authoritarian rhetoric even as he continues to be vague about what it all means or how it will all be accomplished.

Any mention of climate change has been seemingly removed from the site (except to note that he will eliminate our nation’s Climate Action Plan, which his administration considers “harmful and unnecessary”). https://www.whitehouse.gov/america-first-energy

He has rather ominously vowed to end “American carnage” even though there are no specifics as to the sorts of carnage he means. He continues to use his tired and coded condemnation of urban areas and populations. He disparages our educators and, indeed, our entire education system.

Even as he claims to be taking “an oath of allegiance to all Americans,” his attention appears to be miles distant from the carnage of inequality or injustice toward our nation’s religious or ethnic minorities or LGBTQ community or marginalized groups of any sort. https://www.whitehouse.gov/inaugural-address

The website touts plans to re-energize manufacturing without any awareness of the necessity for organized labor or, at the very least, living wages—the very things that will make a manufacturing economy viable in this century (must as they did in the previous century). https://www.whitehouse.gov/bringing-back-jobs-and-growth

His rhetoric about strengthening America by turning attention back to our country can be read as encouraging. Who doesn’t want stronger infrastructure or better jobs or safer schools? Who doesn’t want a country that “shines as an example” around the world? And I agree with his “buy American” philosophy. But when he starts his reductive “America First” sloganeering, it’s unclear what we should expect. It’s worth noting here that “America First” was an anti-semitic slogan in the years leading up to WWII, started by people who believed the Jewish-Americans were pushing us into war for their own agenda. The Anti-Defamation League asked the president to stop using the phrase nearly a year ago: http://www.adl.org/press-center/press-releases/anti-semitism-usa/adl-urges-donald-trump-to-reconsider-america-first.html#.WIKHkaOZOdE

Truthfully, I really want to believe in this speech and I’d love to be a person who could get behind the president and work toward a better country, but I think my work for the country cannot come through this man. If he accomplishes the economic goals and does help the country, I will acknowledge the positives and give credit where credit is due. But:

I fear for the environment.

I fear for the marginalized.

I fear more of my tax dollars going to “rebuild a military” that is already the most expensive in the world.

I fear pretty much all of his appointments.

I fear for my daughter’s future in Trump’s America.

I want him to surprise the shit out of me and become a great president. I want him to really mean it when he says he’s a president for all Americans. But nothing so far has given me any hope whatsoever that he will surprise me. Everything I’ve seen and read—and if you’ve been reading my posts, you know that I have been spending a great deal of time reading a wide variety of respected news publications—does not paint an administration worthy of my hope.

I do have hope in my friends and family. Today, my daughter left to march in the Woman’s March tomorrow in D.C.. She went with friends of our family, will stay with a friend of the family, be surrounded by women and men of conviction, and do her part to make a statement about the country she wants to be a part of. I’ll be attending a march in Portsmouth tomorrow. These are good people working to make America the bright and shining example it might someday be. These are the people to whom I can stake my allegiance.

Note: I’m posting about my political or social justice activities thoughts each week. It’s not an invitation to debate in the comments sections. If you yell at me online, I’ll just delete the comment. If you’d like to have a conversation about any of my ideas, I’m pretty easy to find. Let’s do it in person. I’ll even buy the first cup of coffee. We’ll get along famously in person. And in return, I promise not to yell at you online, too. Deal? Internet comments don’t solve anything.

I’ve Been Away but Not That Far Away

(My postings on political topics are not an invitation to debate in the comments sections. If you yell at me online, I’ll just delete the comment. If you’d like to have a conversation about any of my ideas, I’m pretty easy to find. Let’s do it in person. I’ll even buy the first cup of coffee. We’ll get along famously in person. And in return, I promise not to yell at you online, too. Deal?)

I thought I’d be posting once a week—it seemed like a pretty modest goal to uphold in reaction to the election results. A lot of people felt sparked to action and I was one of those people and yet just a few weeks in, I found myself with very little to say. Or very little to report in regards to my own action. It’s a pretty paltry effort on my part, but truthfully, anything that I might be moved to write is being written better and more eloquently in many different places, so mostly I’ve been reading. I’ve been maintaining a daily dose of news from actual news sources—Times, Globe, Post, ProPublica, etc. You can see my list of news sources in earlier posts. I’ve been slowly reading John Lewis’s memoir Walking in the Wind. I’ve decided that if I’m going to use the word fascism that I should know more about the word and its origins, so I’ve picked up a book about the origins of the classic Fascist states of Europe (Fascists by Michael Mann).

A lot of what I’ve seen the news has been about placing blame for the failures of the Democrats and/or liberals to understand their opponents. There seems to be a great deal of ink spilled about liberals just “not getting” what those conservative voters are feeling. And perhaps there is a truth to some of that writing, but I’m still not sure what it supposedly is that I’m not “getting.”

I know that man-made climate change is real. It’s not a debatable question. Science is not a liberal conspiracy. What am I not “getting” there that a good chunk conservative America would like me to see? Don’t use the old flat-earth argument. “People used to believe the world was flat…they were proved wrong. Science is bogus, yada, yada…” Yeah, that’s a myth. We’ve known the Earth is round for a long time. And if that’s not enough, it’s an apples and oranges logical fallacy. How can we bridge the gap here?

A Trump presidency can’t be Normalized. There are a lot of people writing about this. That was my stance the day after the election and it remains so now. I don’t feel it’s up to me to explain to everyone who wants to argue this topic. I have enough stuff I want to learn myself. I’m googling stuff all the time! There’s nothing normal about his transition team or the transition process and we shouldn’t allow his term to be normalized in any way. Even at the most basic levels—the nuts and bolts of running the country—his term will be a far cry from normal. He’s not a non-conformist throwing a hammer at a big-brother screen. He’s a foul-tempered narcissist with a nuclear arsenal. This, I suppose, is my elitism on parade.

Our country’s racist past and present (and most likely, it’s future)? How can that be a debatable point? Simply look at an online comments section on any article that mentions Barack or Michelle Obama. You’ll find abundant proof that racism is alive and well. It’s not up for debate. There’s real hard proof in the news everyday. Recently: Carl Paladino, Trump’s NY Campaign Co-chair, said that Michelle Obama could now “go back to being a man and living in Africa with the gorillas.” (Here’s a link to the article from a reliable news source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/23/nyregion/carl-paladino-trump-ally-wishes-obama-dead-and-aims-racial-insults-at-michelle-obama.html?_r=0) Of course, he said it wasn’t a racist statement, but saying an apple isn’t an apple doesn’t cause it to cease being an apple. It’s the old adage: If it walks, swims, quacks, and craps like a duck, then it’s a duck.

Women’s rights?

Immigrant rights?

Minority rights?

LGTBQ rights?

Inalienable rights?

My convictions in those areas are not debatable “feelings.” I’m not afraid of the word progressive in this regard. If understanding the electorate who pushed Trump into office means giving ground on any of those things, then I guess I won’t understand them.

The big things that I’m less sure of are anything dealing with the economy or international affairs. I simply don’t know enough to debate on those subjects. I have a lot to learn. But I trust unions over companies; small businesses over pseudo-American conglomerates; peaceful or diplomatic solutions to world problems over hawkish rhetoric and war; the rich paying their fair share of taxes; and other such things that I guess put me in the elitist camp. I still have a lot to learn.

As for action, I’m proud to be supporting my daughter’s trip to DC for the Million Woman march. She’s taking a Rally Bus down from NH for the day. I’m so proud that she wants to be involved. I love that she’s standing up for the things she believes in putting those beliefs into action. She’s a kick-ass young woman and a great power of example to me. That’s all for now.

Things to Do in Light of the Recent Election

Okay, I was poleaxed by the election. I’ve spent the last six days reading and thinking. Okay, not really. I’ve spent much of the last six days streaming 30 Rock on a constant loop so I wouldn’t have to think. But, I did a lot of reading, too. Cross my heart. This post will outline some things I’ve learned and some things I’m going to try to do. This isn’t an invitation to debate, because I don’t want to be yelled at on Facebook. If you want to have a conversation with me about anything I write here, super. I’m pretty easy to find. But if you yell at me on Facebook, I’ll just delete the comment. In return, I promise not to yell at you on Facebook either. Deal? I’ve seen this viral-video of some British guy yelling while standing in front of an infinity screen. He waves his arms a lot and has cool, hip, messy hair. He tries to look like he’s not looking at himself. He blames people like me for losing the election because of the liberal bubble. Maybe some of what he says is true—I do live in a liberal town, teach at a University (although certainly not a traditionally liberal school), and have a ton of liberal friends. But I read. A lot. I also teach critical writing and I get news from a number of sources (almost exclusively text, I watch very little cable or network news.). I’m on the side of honest debate, factual reporting, facts in general, truth, critical thought, non-reductive reasoning, social justice, climate change urgency, anti-racism, anti-misogyny—well, you get the picture. It’s not difficult to see where I stand. That’s my bubble. So be it. I don’t know if that means I helped elect Donald Trump. But that’s what the yelling-man with the cool, messy hair tells me I’ve done. I find his rant condescending. I find his reasoning reductive and abstract. Plus, he talks about being “lynched” like he’s not aware of the racial connotations, or, worse, he’s using the word “lynched” so he’ll seem edgy or cool. So, screw that guy. He pleads for people to “talk to him” but he’s too loud and obnoxious. What is needed is action. I’m late to the party. I’ve stood on the sidelines for too long. Here are some thoughts about how I’m going to get active as we run up to the inauguration of the new president.

  • I’m going to write to my congresswomen and representatives to urge them to oppose Steve Bannon taking any job in the White House. A cursory glance at his publishing record should scare any average voter, Republican or Democrat. His extremist views are abhorrent. He shouldn’t be allowed a janitorial position on the staff, let alone Chief Strategist. We need to keep this man away from our White House.
  • I’m going to subscribe to at least two newspapers, maybe three. I’m thinking Boston Globe, Washington Post, and New York Times. But if there is a notable paper that you’d suggest, I’d consider that too. It’s important to support our press in this new era of hostility toward good old-fashioned journalism.
  • I’m going to join the NH-ACLU and set up a recurring donation to the National ACLU. At a time when our civil liberties are being threatened, I want to be a part of an organization that will fight for all of our rights.
  • I am going to challenge every racist, misogynistic, or anti-LGTBQ action or word I see in the world (but not on social media, because no mind is changed by internet comment sections). I hope that I am strong enough to do this. With the immediate rise of hate-speech and hate-crime in the wake of the election, I know that I must stand up for any group that may be marginalized or feel threatened. If I can use my privilege as a shield in some way to help a victim of even a micro-aggression, I will.
  • And yup, I’m going to wear a safety pin. Put a safety pin on my office door. Put a safety pin on the front door of my home. In my car. On each jacket. On my teaching notebooks. Maybe even hang one from my glasses. It’s just a symbol, but so is the American Flag.
  • I’m going to try to extend love in all directions. That sounds hippyish and abstract, and I haven’t figured out what it means for every situation, but I know that it’s my only path. That doesn’t mean I won’t get angry. And that doesn’t mean I think a racist, misogynistic, bully for a president is “normal” in any way. But I can’t go forward from a place of hate. It has to be love. I have friends I know voted for Trump. You know who you are. I love you too. I can’t change anything but me.
  • I will not consider Trump’s administration “normal.” Period.
  • I’m going to continue to teach critical thinking and reading skills as best I can in the First Year Writing Course I teach almost every semester. Who knows if any of that stuff sticks (exhausted looking 8am students, you’d know better than me). But if I continue to demand critical thinking, reading, and writing, that is positive forward motion.
  • I’m going to continue to teach the creative process and creative writing in the Introductory and Intermediate and Advanced Fiction writing courses I teach. What is more hopeful than creating something? Every time a student writes about a person not themselves, they learn about the world through a different set of eyes. Maybe a stated goal of those classes should be “developing the empathetic palette.” I will ask them to read stories that show the world from a wide range of vantage points, in particular those of the populations of folks threatened by or fearful of a Trump presidency.
  • I will read more myself. I already choose my books from a broad spectrum, but for the upcoming year, I will read at least one extra book per month that deals with some issue or population that is in danger under a Trump Presidency.
  • I will write more about these subjects and post more on my website. For several years, my website has lacked focus. I post relatively infrequently. But now, Clarkknowles.com will have a purpose. It won’t be all posts like this. But each week, I will write and post on a subject that pertains to my country and this new president and/or his policies and how they effect the people.
  • I will join an organization on the University of New Hampshire’s campus that promotes social justice. I don’t know which one, yet. I have to do a little research.
  • I will look into how I can best help insure that the mid-term elections are more aligned to the core values to which our founding documents aspire. Conversely, I will speak out against the notion that our white-male-property-and-slave-owning founding fathers are people we should fetishize as we imagine a better tomorrow. The documents, yes, the men, no.
  • So, as we move toward the inauguration, I will begin these things. It’s the only way I can see to go forward—action, even on this small scale, is the only path away from total despair. Through action, I can envision renaissance instead of apocalypse. I hope that you’ll join me in some form of action as we work to protect those who most need our protection.